Creating your will in Arizona is a key component of estate planning. It allows you to distribute your property, name guardians for your minor children, and helps your loved ones through probate. Read this FAQ to find out how to create a valid last will and testament under Arizona law.
Table of Contents
- What If I Die Without a Will in Arizona?
- Who Can Make a Will in Arizona?
- Does Arizona Have a Statutory Will?
- What Types of Wills Does Arizona Accept?
- Can I Make My Own Will in Arizona?
- How Do I Make My Will Valid in Arizona?
- Can I Disinherit My Spouse in Arizona?
- Can I Disinherit My Children in Arizona?
- What Estate Planning Documents Should I Have in Arizona?
What If I Die Without a Will in Arizona?
When a person dies with a will, the will determines who inherits their personal property and real property. If the decedent does not have a valid will, it is known as dying “intestate,” and state law determines who inherits through intestate succession. If there is a surviving spouse or children, they will inherit the estate. If there is no spouse or children, other next of kin or family members inherit, such as parents, siblings, or grandparents. And if you have minor children but no parent survives, the court decides who raises your children.
What Does a Will Do?
A will allows you to make a lot of important decisions how you want to distribute your estate, such as:
- Naming a personal representative or executor who is responsible for locating your assets, submitting the will to the probate court, handling your estate and filing tax returns, and carrying out your wishes
- Identifying and giving away personal property and real estate
- Naming beneficiaries, the people who will inherit your assets and what they will inherit
- Making charitable bequests or donations
- Naming guardians for minor children
- Naming caregivers for pets and setting aside funds to care for their needs
Because you make these decisions, a probate court doesn’t have to, which saves time and money by speeding up the probate process.
What Doesn’t a Will Do?
Arizona wills handle many things, but some assets do not pass through a will. These are called non-probate assets. They pass according to the terms of their own documents. These non-probate assets include the following:
- Property owned as joint tenants with right of survivorship
- Trusts, including revocable living trusts and assets owned by trusts
- Funds in payable on death or transfer on death bank accounts
- Life insurance payments (to beneficiaries other than to the estate itself)
Therefore, you should inventory all your transfer-on-death accounts and policies to make sure they have the correct beneficiary designations. And it is a good idea to name a backup beneficiary if your primary beneficiary should die before you. Any assets without a beneficiary may go back into your estate, and then the court distributes them during the probate proceeding.
Who Can Make a Will in Arizona?
To make a new will in the state of Arizona, the testator (person making the will) must meet the following requirements:
- Age: You are 18 years of age or older.
- Sound Mind: You have a sound mind. A sound mind means the testator has testamentary capacity by being aware of what they own, understand who their natural heirs are, understand the decisions they make in the will, and realize they are creating a will.
You must have a testamentary capacity at the time you sign the will. If you have questions about testamentary capacity, consider consulting an estate planning attorney for legal advice.
Does Arizona Have a Statutory Will?
No. Arizona does not provide a statutory will, a form you must use to create a valid will. You can create your will using an online will-making service, such as FindLaw Legal Forms and Services, or hire an estate planning attorney.
What Types of Wills Does Arizona Accept?
The most common type of will is typewritten or printed and then signed by the testator. Make sure you are familiar with the different types of wills and if their format is acceptable in Arizona.
- Handwritten Will: A holographic will or handwritten will is one written by the testator in the testator’s handwriting. To be valid, the material sections of the will must be in the testator’s handwriting, and the testator must sign it. Witnesses are not required, but it is a good idea.
- Oral Will: Arizona does not recognize oral or spoken wills.
- Electronic Will: Arizona recently passed legislation for electronic wills. An electronic will is one executed and maintained on an electronic medium. The testator may sign the will electronically and two witnesses must also be electronically present when the testator electronically signs and acknowledges their will. Electronic wills must include the date of signing and a copy of the testator’s government ID.
The most reliable type of will is a traditionally printed, signed, and witnessed will. Other types, especially handwritten, unwitnessed wills, can be challenged on the grounds of fraud or duress.
Can I Make My Own Will in Arizona?
Yes. You can make your own will in Arizona. You do not need an attorney to create a will. But, because your will is such a crucial legal document, you want it to meet state-specific requirements. Therefore, it’s best to use an estate planning service, such as FindLaw Legal Forms and Services. that conforms to Arizona law. One advantage to making a will yourself is that is easy to change when you want to update your will. You don’t need to go to a lawyer for an amendment or codicil, simply revoke your original will and create a new will reflecting your current wishes.
How Do I Make My Will Valid in Arizona?
It is essential to understand the requirements for making a valid will in Arizona:
- Signature: The testator must sign the will themselves or have someone else sign it at their direction in their presence.
- Witnesses: Two witnesses must sign the will within a reasonable time after the testator signs or when the testator acknowledges the will or their signature to the witness. Some states have rules prohibiting witnesses who are beneficiaries of the will they witness, but Arizona has no provision about this. However, it is better to use disinterested witnesses if at all possible. This avoids any challenge due to undue influence.
- Notary: There is no requirement in Arizona that a will be notarized unless you use a self-proving affidavit. Arizona permits remote online notarization.
- Self-Proving Affidavit: A self-proving affidavit is a sworn statement signed by the testator and witnesses and notarized by a notary. The witnesses attest that the testator intended to make a will and signed the will. It takes the place of witness testimony in probate court. Without it, the witnesses may have to appear when the will is in probate. You can self-prove an electronic will if the will contains the electronic signature and seal of a notary public and the will is under the exclusive control of the qualified custodian before being offered for probate.
Can I Disinherit My Spouse in Arizona?
You are not required to include your spouse in your will in Arizona. However, they are still entitled to a minimum amount of your estate due to community property laws. It is best to consult with an attorney if you wish to disinherit a spouse.
Can I Disinherit My Children in Arizona?
You are not required to include your children in your will in Arizona. If you leave a minor child out of your will, they are still entitled to a share of your estate. The best way to disinherit an adult child is to state you are disinheriting them in your will.
What Estate Planning Documents Should I Have in Arizona?
In addition to your will, you should also prepare the following estate planning documents.
- Power of Attorney: If you are suddenly incapacitated, who will handle your financial matters? If you name an agent in a power of attorney document, they can pay your bills, manage your financial affairs, and provide your family with the resources they need. You decide what powers to give your agent and when their authority begins and ends.
- Living Will: A living will, or advance medical directive, allows you to specify what life-prolonging measures do (or don’t) want if you face a terminal illness or end-of-life condition. In Arizona, you can also designate a health care surrogate or agent to make medical decisions for you when you can’t. If you don’t make these decisions in a living will, the burden is on your loved ones to figure out what you want.
Fortunately, making a valid will and creating other Arizona estate planning documents is easy with online estate planning templates.